November 4, 2005

All Reality, All the Time

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It was only inevitable you know. From the moment it started, I suspected it would get out of hand eventually and after things just exploded, I feared for the worst. What am I talking about exactly? Oh, just a little something we call reality television. You’re probably making a face right about now, internal emotions wavering somewhere between irritation and boredom, dying to say something along the lines of, “Reality television is so two years ago!” Fret not, gentle reader, for I wanted to say the exact same thing although perhaps with a little more expletives when it was brought to my attention that instead of graciously exiting while still on top in some Destiny’s Child sort of way, reality television had decided to milk us for all we’re worth with the creation of Fox Reality, the first television network devoted entirely to broadcasting reality programming.

With a slogan like, “All reality, all the time,” there can be no misconception as to what type of channel this will be. Targeted at college students and 20 somethings, the network’s lineup methodically divides up the day in terms of programming blocs. We start off with the “Love & Lust” section every morning, where shows like Extreme Dating or Ambush Makeover serve up several doses of frothy romance and self-improvement.

Mixed emotions certainly don’t characterize early afternoons on Fox Reality, where the aptly named, “Cops and Heroes” section broadcasts action-packed programming of the Cops variety. Then we move on to “Reality Imports,” which introduces international reality shows. With evenings comes “Prime Reality,” where all your old favorites like Joe Millionaire or Paradise Hotel all make their obligatory appearances. “Reality Fix” soon follows and is a segment that features hour-long specials and shows like When Animals Attack. Last on the menu is “Reality Red-Eye,” the most risque of the bunch. Its international lineup and raunchy highlights section is, I suppose, a solution of sorts to all those Cornell all-nighters.

Fox Reality explains its purpose, promise and participants well enough. Although the words “reality” and “exclusive” are often mixed with phrases like “never before seen” or “never been aired,” I can’t help but wonder if this really is, reality. I don’t recall fighting each other while adorned in traditional Mongolian garb while in unidentified grasslands to be a conventional aspect of my reality. Similarly, it is perhaps only ironic that a male contestant is captured on camera saying, “The whole concept – is mean spirited. Nothing good can come out of that.” Sure, he may have been talking about Temptation Island, the original reality television version of a devil on your shoulder, but can all reality all the time be a good thing? And furthermore, isn’t it better experienced as just, “life?”

I was getting a little light-headed from all the meaningful pondering and thus decided to do as Fox Reality instructed and visit their website ( Purportedly the “hub” of all reality fans, the Fox Reality website is essentially a supplement to the main network. The clear gem amidst all this generic, network website fare, however, lies in the “games” section.

Reality show games, you ask with incredulity? Yeah, I’m right there with you. There are currently four main games on the website: Fantasy Reality Challenge, The Real Deal and The Cops & Heroes Criminal Crackdown. Fantasy Reality Challenge is essentially the same thing, but with reality show stars. I know, you’re nearly pulling your hair out in excitement. For anyone who has ever dreamt about casting their ideal team of reality show stars to dominate the upcoming television season, your horrifyingly specific fantasies are about to come true.

Still, none of these mini games caught my fancy, but it was only then that I discovered Love & Lust. Another product of the ampersand fixation that Fox Reality seems to have developed, the game forces players to “get to your date on time” in a super hot pink vehicle driving at night against the backdrop of some anonymous cityscape. Collecting “lips” on the way will up your “mojo” while collecting “dollars” will up your score. There are obstacles, of course, on this road to love in the form of road blocks, uneven pavement or gaps in the road. Complete with trumpet-heavy, porno-rific background music, this game was entirely addicting and altogether ridiculous.

Fox Reality may have gained the upper hand on the gradually waning arena of reality television, but its shameless programming and bold lineup will probably attract more naïve channel surfers ready for a good ‘ole fashioned, brainless time. Despite my initial reservations, however, I must grudgingly admit that an hour later, and I am still desperately trying my hardest to beat level two on my date with destiny. Why so numerous, gaps in the road, why?

Archived article by Tracy Zhang
Arts and Entertainment Editor